Baby refuses the bottle? It is very common among exclusively breastfed baby. Learn how to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle.
I always thought that breastfeeding is the hardest job, until I tried introducing bottle to my baby.
A total shocker!!
My baby wouldn’t even open her mouth to take the bottle. I was stressed, anxious and absolutely overwhelmed learning that my baby won’t take a bottle.
After 3 days of trying, I thought it is mission impossible!! That 4-months old baby certainly knows the difference between breast and artificial nipple.
Soon I realized that, to conquer this mission – get a breastfed baby to take a bottle – needs some serious planning.
I started reading every other mom’s story and followed their tried and tested tips to get my baby to take a bottle. After consistently trying and lots of patience (a lot..!!) my baby finally started taking a bottle.
Bottle-feeding also comes with its own set of challenges. Learning how to bottle-fed a breastfed baby is equally important to avoid gassy and colicky baby (post feeding fuzziness). Click here to learn about paced bottle feeding method that allows babies more control over suck-swallow-breathe pattern that mimics breastfeeding.
I have compiled a list of tricks and tips that will help you overcome this challenge. I know how stressful it can be because I have gone through what you are going through now. I’ve got you covered with 16 tips that will serve as your guide for exactly how to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle.
But before we get to that, it is important to figure out why breastfed baby won’t take a bottle in the first place.
Why is my Breastfed Baby Won’t Take a Bottle?
I can tell you one thing for sure is that baby refuses bottle not because they can’t figure out how the sucking from the bottle works. Actually, sucking from the bottle is lot easier than the hard work they have to do to get a milk from the breast.
Most breastfed baby prefers breast over any bottle because breastfeeding is nourishment, comfort and safety for them. They are not going to give up all these easily for a bottle.
Chances of baby accepting bottle increases if you introduce bottle at the early stage of life, it gets harder as they grow up.
There are many reasons why breastfed babies refuses bottle. It is important to understand why your baby is refusing the bottle so you can focus on correcting it.
1. Feeling of Artificial Nipple:
Babies may not like the feeling of the artificial nipple in their mouth. As soon as you try to put nipple in their mouth, they will spit it out. If you see this sign in your baby, then they are trying to tell you that they are not interested in bottle. Often babies who are bothered by texture of the nipple will refuse pacifiers too.
2. Confused Baby:
It can be confusing for breastfed babies when they are suddenly given a bottle. They are used to feeding from mom, and all of a sudden foreign object going in their mouth will confuse them about what to do with bottle.
Some babies do try to suck on a bottle, but as soon as they taste the milk, they spit out the bottle. In this case, they may not like what they are getting in terms of temperature of the milk or texture of the nipple or they might have problem with the flow of the nipple.
4. Only Want Mama:
The most common culprit of bottle refusal is -baby ONLY wants MAMA. These types of babies know how to suck on bottle, but they will refuse to do so. It is hard work to get these babies to take a bottle.
If you put in some effort to find out the exact reason for your baby’s refusal to take a bottle, you can focus your effort into solving the exact problem.
Sometimes it is hard to know the cause of refusal. It could be combination of any or all of these factors causing bottle refusal. In this case, you will have to try everything until your baby starts accepting bottle.
16 Ways to Get Breastfed Baby to take a Bottle
It is stressful and overwhelming when your baby won’t accept a bottle and only wants to breastfeed. Don’t lose your hope, mama !! I got you covered. If you follow these tips consistently, you will make a transition from breast to bottle within couple of days.
1. Start Early
I am sure that for most of you this tip won’t apply. You are here reading this because you already have a problem. But if you happen to read this well in advance, then I can’t trace this enough to start introducing bottle to your baby early regardless of your feeding choice.
The experts recommends introducing bottle as early as six weeks, only if breastfeeding is well established (Source). Artificial nipples, when offered too early can cause nipple confusion and babies may refuse to breastfeed altogether.
2. Let Dad or Someone else do the Honors
It can make a huge difference. Baby often rejects bottle from mama; as boobs being one inch away, why would you accept a bottle. Babies are more likely to accept a bottle from a dad. This is a great opportunity for your partner to bond with baby over a bottle duty.
3. Leave the House
When dad or someone else is trying to offer a bottle to your baby, go to another level of the house or leave the house (but not too far..in case you need to come back in 10 min). Reason being your baby can smell you from the distance. If your baby hears, sees or smells you, it can sabotage anyone’s attempts to offer a bottle to a baby.
4. Offer a Bottle after a Feed
After you have breastfed your baby, offer her a bottle. This will allow them to get used to nipple. Let them chew on nipple and play with the bottle with little breast milk.
5. Right Time for Feeding
Babies are most likely to take a bottle when they are hungry and not starving. If you offer a bottle when they are starving, they will reject it because they don’t have a time to figure out this bottle thing!! So, the key is to offer a bottle when they are hungry enough and not starving.
Finding out this magic window of hungry enough requires some experimentation. You can start with a quite room, comfy chair and no distraction. As soon as you see hunger cues from your baby, slide the bottle in.
6. Try Different Position or Place
If your partner or someone else is offering bottle to your baby, ask them to hold baby the exact same way as you do when you breastfed your baby. Some babies do really well in this position. If this does not work, try different position like face baby outward away from the bottle giver, or give a bottle to your baby in car seat while facing her. Sometime changing location of feeding baby in the house -from bedroom to living room to nursery- may work.
7. Lure Your Baby
Lure your baby with few drops of breast milk on the nipple to encourage sucking for more milk. You can also slowly bring bottle near baby’s mouth, let nipple touch her mouth encouraging baby to latch onto the bottle first. At this point you can also offer few drops of milk to let baby know that milk is on the way.
8. Temperature of the Milk
Breastfed babies are used to drink milk that is at body temperature. If the milk in the bottle is cold or warm to their taste, they will refuse it. You may need to figure out temperature of the milk that your baby won’t reject.
To help make this process easy, bottle warmer may come in handy. With different options for temperature setting, you will easily figure out your baby’s liking and you can offer her consistent temperature milk every feeding session.
9. Try Breast-like Bottle
There are variety of bottles available in the market that look and feel like breast and designed specifically for breastfed baby. Here is the review about the 10 best bottles for breastfed baby, pick one that fit your need and budget.
I would recommend buying 2 different types of bottle. You do not need to change bottle every week in hope that your baby will take it. Whatever you buy stick with it and offer it consistently to your baby. It takes couple of days for a baby to get used to the bottle. Changing bottle frequently will confuse baby even more.
10. Flow of the Nipple
When you first introduce bottle to your breastfed baby use slow flow nipple. Breastfed babies exhibit more coordinated suck-swallow-breathe pattern in 1:1:1 ratio. With a fast flow nipple, they may not pause to breathe regularly because of fast flow of the milk. This may cause them to choke, gag or spit up.
11. Offer a Pacifier
Usually baby that don’t take a bottle also refuses a pacifier. But it doesn’t hurt to try giving pacifier. Pacifier may help them learn how to suck on artificial nipple and get them used to something different in their mouth.
You can offer a pacifier when they are about to sleep. Once they start sucking on pacifier for few minutes, take the pacifier away and slide the bottle in while they are still actively sucking. If they fall asleep, they won’t suck on a bottle.
It is not recommended introducing pacifier too early. You should wait until your breastfeeding is well established before giving pacifier to avoid nipple confusion.
12. Use a Nipple Shield
Although nipple shield had bad reputation in breastfeeding community, it can really help baby to adjust to the feeling of a different nipple. Wear a nipple shield while breastfeeding and let baby nurse through nipple shield. Learn more about how to use nipple shield here.
13. Trick Your Baby
Start with breastfeeding your baby and once your baby is relaxed, gently remove nipple and slide the bottle into baby’s mouth.
14. Distract your Baby
During a feeding time, take your baby out for a walk. Wear your baby in a sling or front facing carrier or take a stroller. While they are distracted looking outside, slide the bottle into their mouth. If you have a baby inn stroller, you need someone to push the stroller while you offer bottle to your baby. You want to choose a place for a walk that is not overcrowded.
15. Try Consistently
Don’t expect your baby to take a bottle after first, second or third attempt. It takes minimum of one week to ten days for baby to get accustomed to a bottle. There is no magic here. No matter how frustrating it gets, keep trying and being consistent is very important.
You need to try offering the bottle to a baby at least 1- 2 times a day. Pick a time of the day when baby is most relaxed and happy- either morning feed or afternoon before nap- offer the bottle.
Using the tips above consistently for 7-10 days, can make a huge difference in your baby eventually taking a bottle.
16. Alternate Feeding Methods
If you are dealing with a stubborn baby that won’t take a bottle even after applying above tips, talk to your doctor about alternative feeding method. There are different alternatives to bottle feeding like using a syringe, finger feeding etc., Check this video below on alternate feeding methods.
Now you have all important tricks to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle. With consistency and little patience, your baby will eventually give in and take a bottle.
Over to you, do let me know in comment below what has worked for you.
Importantly, if you have any important/magic tips, PLEASE share them below so people can read it in comment section. You never know who you would be helping by doing so!!
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